You’ve probably seen a variety of milk products in your local grocery, from your regular milk to soy, almond, and everything in between which may have pique your curiosity already. After all, in this day and age, more and more people are starting to read labels from the products that they are buying and are learning that less ingredients means safer for their health. But before we learn more about these alternatives to milk, let’s understand what makes regular milk good for you.
What is Milk?
Milk is important to our bone health because it contains various nutrients like calcium, vitamin A, protein, zinc, riboflavin, as well as vitamin B12. According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines, we need to consume 2.5 servings of dairy products like cheese, yogurt, and milk, or their alternatives each day to absorb the nutrients that they contain. Drinking cow’s milk is actually a good source of nutrients, but if you are lactose intolerant, or you are not a fan of its taste, trying a different product may help you get the nutrients that you need.
What are Alt-Milks?
As the name suggests, Alt-Milks, or alternative milk, are these non-dairy milk products that those who are lactose intolerant turn to for their dairy needs. Let’s find out what these alt-milks are:
- Soy. This was actually the first plant-based milk that appeared in the market in response to the needs of those who are not fond of dairy or are lactose-intolerant. Soymilk is actually made from soy protein powder or ground soy beans and reconstituted with water, with some oil and sugar added to imitate the consistency of cow’s milk. What makes soy milk a good alternative is because it contains protein plus it is fortified with calcium too.
- Oat. Another example of alt-milk that you can try is oat which is a type of nut-free drink that is quite versatile in terms of usage. It has this silky texture to it that causes it to foam and froth making it a nice option when making latte, in cereals, as well as soups even. Add some maple syrup to it for added sweetness.
- Almond. This milk is considered to be an all-purpose type of alternative milk because it is not as rich compared to others, but it is still high in terms of protein content. It has a medium body with hints of sweetness to it making it a useful ingredient when making various dishes from mashed potatoes to smoothies.
- Hazelnut. Another alternative to milk that you are sure to find in your local groceries is hazelnut which has the same sweetness of the nut that it is derived from. It blends well with chocolate and vanilla too. You can use it when making pastries instead of regular milk or blend with your morning drink for that creamy taste.
- Cashew. Cashew milk has the same softness of the nut to it which you can easily distinguish even when mixed with coffee. Its mellow taste can become savory too especially when used in cream-based sauces for pasta and other dishes.
- Hemp. It’s easy enough to distinguish this alt-milk from the rest because of its grassy flavor. It packs plenty of omega-3 fatty acids which you can consume by mixing this milk with your cereals. Hemp seeds don’t have to be soaked prior to blending which means that you can prepare this milk fairly quickly.
- Rice milk. As the name suggests, rice milk is a combination of water and milled rice that is low in calories just like in the case of cow’s milk. It is usually fortified with calcium, but low in protein content. It is quite high in natural sugars which you should watch out.
- Coconut milk. You can also try coconut milk in place of regular cow’s milk since it is low in carbohydrate and protein, but high in saturated fat. It can be fortified too but this depends on the brand.
Plant-based milks that were mentioned above are not as good as soy milk, with almond milk ranking second to it. Be that as it may, you will still need to pay attention to the ingredients used in making these alt-milks because it is possible that their sugar content is high. Also, it would be a good idea to look for alt-milks that are fortified with calcium if you cannot tolerate regular cow’s milk.
How do Alt-Milks Stack Against Cow’s Milk?
There is no doubt that cow’s milk has all the nutrients that you need, from protein, to calcium, to folate, to vitamin B12 and others. Consuming 8 ounces of whole milk will already deliver 8 grams of protein which makes up about 60% of the recommended daily allowance in toddlers or about 40% in young children. The quality of protein present in cow’s milk is high too since it contains essential amino acids that are needed by the body.
Alt-milks, on the other hand, cannot match the nutrient profile of cow’s milk even though they are used as alternative to regular milk. Coconut milk and rice milk are low in protein and calcium content, but the good news is that soy may be in for the running for the next best alternative to cow’s milk because of its nutrients.